By Stefan J. Bos
There were numerous comings and goings of limousines and well-dressed people at the famed Hôtel de Matignon, the official prime minister's residence in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron wants a new government to focus on efforts to relaunch the French economy deeply hit by the coronavirus crisis.
That's why French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tendered his resignation Friday.
He had been heading the government for three turbulent years when he oversaw three significant crises. Besides the coronavirus pandemic, Phillippe weathered the yellow vests protests against fuel taxes as well as severe living conditions, and he oversaw pension reforms.
Yet his resignation was a controversial move. Commentators claim outgoing prime minister Philippe is more popular than the president who appoints the government.
But the governing La République En Marche or Republic on the Move party had poor local election results over the weekend.
It hopes a new government will win back voters ahead of a possible re-election bid by President Macron in 2022.
After their meeting, the president and prime minister agreed that Philippe and his ministers would handle government affairs until a new cabinet is named.
Macron's move to refashion his centrist government came after voters punished the former investment banker and his party in the June 28 nationwide municipal elections.
Sunday's ballot revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined President Macron's troubles with left-leaning voters.
The only bright spot for Macron was outgoing Prime Minister Philippe's victory in the northern port city of Le Havre. The 49-year-old Philippe is likely to become the mayor of Le Havre, his hometown in western France.
With only 21 months until the next presidential election, advisors make clear that President Macron wants to reposition himself.
It won't be easy amid social tensions.
The government earlier admitted that the French economy is due to shrink a record 11 percent this year because of the coronavirus crisis.
That is worse than the government's previous forecast of an 8 percent contraction.
Officials have linked nearly 30,000 deaths to the coronavirus pandemic in France.